People and their priorities sometimes puzzle me. Perhaps, I should rephrase that: Individuals and their priorities often mystify me. Yes, that is better.
I recently watched the film, "The November Man." It was made in 2014 (very recent, by my standards) and is based on a 1987 novel (sort of recent, by my ....) written by Bill Granger, a newspaper man turned novelist. In the movie, there is an exchange of dialogue between Peter Devereaux (a sort of retired CIA operative whose code name was November, played by Pierce Brosnan) and Arkady Federov (the Russian president-elect and a former Russian general, portrayed by Lazar Ristovski, a "famous" Serbian actor). Also in the scene is Olga Kurylenko (a Ukrainian-born actress who plays Mira Filipova impersonating Alice Fournier, and who shared the spotlight with Daniel Craig in the James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace").
While the dialogue is going on, Devereaux is holding a revolver with a single round in it (a single bullet, to interpret for the uninitiated) on Federov, spinning the cylinder, asking a question of Federov and, if he does receive an answer, pulling the trigger. The exercise is a variation of Russian Roulette. The end result is, almost always, a death. So then, here is the dialogue:
Devereaux: Nineteen ninety-nine. You supported an American operation to impersonate Chechen terrorists. Who was the American agent who ran it?
Federov: You are sit (sic) on my shirt.
Devereaux to Fournier, handing her a second handgun: Mira, take this. Shoot him if you have to.
Federov: You are not going to kill me.
Devereaux: That's for you to decide. We're gonna play a little game that I believe was invented in your country. I'll ask you once more. Who was the American agent?
(As he is speaking, Devereaux places a single round in the revolver and spins the cylinder. When he receives no response from Federov, Devereaux pulls the trigger. There is an audible click as the hammer falls on an empty chamber of the cylinder. Devereaux again spins the cylinder.)
Devereaux: I'll ask you again. Was it Weinstein? Hmm?
(Again, Federov does not respond and again Devereaux pulls the trigger. And again, there is an audible click as the hammer falls on an empty chamber of the cylinder. Devereaux again spins the cylinder.)
Devereaux: Come on! You piece of shit! Your odds are running out. Who was the American agent? Was it Weinstein?
Devereaux: John Hanley .... Hanley?
(Devereaux is disbelieving. He takes a photograph showing himself and two other men from his pocket and holds it in front of Federov's face.)
Devereaux: Was it this guy? The guy in the middle?
(Federov points to the Hanley. Fournier sees the photograph and confirms Federov's identification.)
Fournier: No. Peter. That's him. The bald guy.
Devereaux: Shh, shh ....
Now, what mystifies me is why someone would or how someone could be concerned with the condition of their shirt when confronted by a known CIA assassin, who in all probability will kill him within minutes? Is this the ultimate "ubermensch" or is it someone in dire need of psychiatric help?
More importantly, perhaps, is why this "incident" should amount to more than a random thought passing through my mind, rather than turning into a point of fascination. I suppose it is because, as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the priorities people have often mystify me.
And, as I frequently have written in previous posts, I am driven by an intense and an immense curiosity.
And, why is that? As William Shakespeare and a few others both before him and since him noted and have written, I suppose the answer is because "the devil drives."
By the way (I love to write those three words), although it is made clear again and again in the film that he truly is an evil man, Federov does leave the room alive .... but, he does not escape eventual retribution. The final scene in the movie shows him on a multi-million dollar yacht anchored a few hundred yards offshore in an unnamed sea. He is accompanied by a few beautiful women and he is drinking (presumably) vodka. Abruptly, a bullet rips through his head and his body falls over the rail of the yacht and disappears into the depths of (Homer's) wine-dark sea.
Whoever actually fired the shot is not shown, but there is a probable candidate and two distant possibles ....